Eye clinic reports increase in patients amid pollution rise

By Lee I-chia  /  Staff reporter

Wed, Nov 11, 2015 - Page 5

As the northeast monsoon gets stronger in autumn and winter, bringing with it dust and airborne pollutants, visits to an ophthalmology clinic’s eye outpatient department have increased by 20 percent, one of its doctors said.

Shu-Tien Urology Ophthalmology Clinic vice superintendent James Liau (廖士傑) said the nation’s air quality often worsens at this time of the year because the monsoon and cold air masses from the north bring smog from China.

That pollution, couple with air pollution from traffic and manufacturing industries in Taiwan, means more patients visit the clinic for eye problems associated with smog, he said.

Smog can cause allergic conjunctivitis (inflammation resulting from an allergic reaction), bleeding of the conjunctiva, keratitis or corneal ulcer (inflammation or irritation of the cornea), or hordeolum (infections at the base of a eyelid or the eyelash), Liau said.

Many people diagnosed with acute conjunctivitis ride scooters, such as a man in his 20s who complained that his eyes often itched as he was riding his scooter and so he rubbed them, Liau said.

The frequent rubbing resulted in allergic conjunctivitis and hordeolum, and one of the man’s eyelids had swollen to the size of a table tennis ball, he said.

“Rubbing his eye until it became infected and swollen to the size of a Ping Pong ball had caused him unable to easily close his eyelid, causing more damage to his cornea,” Liau said, adding that serious bacterial infection can even lead to cellulitis, a bacterial infection of the skin and tissue beneath the skin.

People should avoid spending too much time outdoors on smoggy days, wear dust masks and wide-frame sunglasses if going outdoors is unavoidable, use the air conditioner when in a car, reduce time spent wearing contact lenses and wear daily disposable contacts or glasses during smoggy periods, apply artificial tears to relieve dry eyes, and to put a cold ice pack over the eyes to relieve itchiness, he said.